History of Father’s Day Festival as seen today is not even a hundred years old. Thanks to the hard work and struggle of Ms Sonora Louise Smart Dodd of Washington that just as we have set aside Mother’s Day to honor mothers we have a day to acknowledge the important role played by the father. However, some scholars opine that Father’s Day history is much older than we actually believe it to be. They say that the custom of honoring dad’s on a special day is over 4,000 years old. There are a few more claims about the Father’s Day origin about which we will learn in this page.
Earliest History of Father’s Day
Scholars believe that the origin of Father’s Day is not a latest phenomenon, as many believe it to be. Rather they claim that the tradition of Father’s Day can be traced in the ruins of Babylon. They have recorded that a young boy called Elmesu carved a Father’s Day message on a card made out of clay nearly 4,000 years ago. Elmesu wished his Babylonian father good health and a long life. Though there is no record of what happened to Elmesu and his father but the tradition of celebrating Father’s Day remained in several countries all over the world.
History of Father’s Day in US
Modern version of Father’s Day celebration originated in United States of America and thereafter the tradition spread in countries around the world. The world owes thanks to Ms Sonora Louise Smart Dodd a loving daughter from Spokane, Washington as it is because of her struggle that Father’s Day saw the light of the day.
The idea of Father’s Day celebration originated in Sonora’s mind when she per chance listened to Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Fairly mature at the age 27, Sonora pondered if there is a day to honor mother then why not for father? Sonora felt strongly for fathers because of the affection she received from her own father Mr William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran. Sonora’s mother died while childbirth when she was just 16. Mr Smart raised the newborn and five other children with love and care.
Inspired by Ms Anna Jarvis’s struggle to promote Mother’s Day, Ms Dodd began a rigorous campaign to celebrate Father’s Day in US. The Spokane Ministerial Association and the local Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) supported Sonora’s cause. As a result Spokane celebrated its first Father’s Day on June 19, 1910. Though there was initial hesitation the idea gained gradual popularity all over US and Fathers Day came to be celebrated in cities across the country.
Looking at the heightened popularity of Father’s Day in US, President Woodrow Wilson approved of this idea in 1916. President Calvin Coolidge too supported the idea of a national Father’s Day in 1924 to, “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations”. After a protracted struggle of over four decades, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day in 1966. Then in 1972, President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father’s Day to be held on the third Sunday of June. Sonora Smart Dodd was honored for her contribution at the World’s Fair in Spokane in 1974. Mrs. Dodd died in 1978 at age 96.
Other Theories of Fathers Day Origin
- There are several theories behind the origination of Father’s Day.
- Some believe that the first Fathers Day church service was held in West Virginia in 1908.
- Others opine that the ceremony was first held in Vancouver, Washington.
- The president of Lions’ Club, Chicago, Harry Meek is said to have celebrated the first Father’s Day with his organization in 1915 to stress on the need to honor fathers. He selected third Sunday in June for celebration, the closest date to Meek’s own birthday. In appreciation for Meek’s work, the Lions Clubs of America presented him with a gold watch, with the inscription “Originator of Father’s Day,” on his birthday, June 20, 1920.
- Some historians honor Mrs. Charles Clayton of West Virginia, as the Founder of Father’s Day.
- In 1957, Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote Congress that, “Either we honor both our parents, mother and father, or let us desist from honoring either one. But to single out just one of our two parents and omit the other is the most grievous insult imaginable.”
- In countries where Catholic Church holds greater influence Father’s Day is celebrated on St. Joseph’s Day (March 19).
Present Day Celebrations
Father’s Day Festival has gained amazing popularity over the years. The festival is considered to be a secular one and is celebrated not just in US but in a large number of countries around the world including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and India though on different dates. World over people take Father’s Day as an opportunity to thank father and pay tribute to them. On this day children present Father’s Day cards not just to their dads but also grandfathers, uncles, stepfathers or any other person who commands the position of a father in their life. There is also a trend to present Father’s Day gift to dad, most popular of all being necktie. Other popular gift being roses, the official Father’s Day flower. Many people rue that the trend of presenting gifts to fathers has led to over commercialization of the festival relegating the noble idea behind Father’s Day celebration.